Marriage in the United States focuses a great deal on the numerous laws regarding it, and not as much on the couple that has taken vows to “love one another ‘til death do them part.” A marriage is the union of two individuals, who in some religions become one flesh. The couple shares everything including money, children, homes, cars, and last names, unless pre-nuptials have been set up which protect an individual’s money and assets prior to the wedding. A U.S. marriage tends to focus more on laws than love due to the fact that a legal spouse has access to the other’s finances in case of an emergency situation such as imprisonment, illness, or death.
To get married a couple has to go to a church, court house, or have a pastor or judge present. Most times people get married in a church and rent a space for a reception to spend time with the wedding guests; then the couple goes off on a honeymoon. There are some couples that elope, instead of having a big wedding with family and friends. Ten states in the United States including Montana recognize couples who never have a wedding ceremony, but have what is called a common law marriage. This means they have lived together for a substantial amount of time and will assume all of the “marital duties and obligations.” National Conference of State Legislatures: The Forum for America’s Ideas. (1990). Common Law Marriage. Retrieved November 23, 2007, from
Marriage involves a lot of togetherness and sharing of time and belongings. Having children requires the married couple to share the responsibilities of raising them. People get married because they usually are in love and cannot imagine spending their lives apart. Also, some people get married because they are seeking companionship, or want to have children and a family.
When getting married a couple must obtain a marriage license so it will be a legal union. This is a legal document that declares that the couple was granted permission to be wed. Also some couples want to be married in a church and in some religions must meet for pre-marital counseling with a pastor. Each state has different regulations regarding marriage. For example, in Montana according to Bob Stritof from Marriage, to get a marriage license a couple must bring a copy of their birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and social security cards. Stritoff, Bob. “Applying for a Marriage License in Montana.” Retrieved November 2, 2007, from
If an individual has been divorced he or she must bring a copy of the divorce decree. There must be a witness present at the signing of the certificate and the couple must pay a nominal fee and have the pastor, or judge sign the license. Another juridic control concerning marriage is, prior to getting a marriage license the bride must take a blood test to check for rubella in the state of Montana.
It is a common practice for the bride to take the groom’s last name. This tradition is a romantic and symbolic way for the bride to leave her family and maiden life behind, and enter into marriage sharing her husband’s name and home. This romantic tradition is a very taxing and lengthy process in Montana and other states, because there are so many documents that need to be altered in order to change one’s name. Jenny McCune states that the first step is for a bride to change her social security card so she will then have one valid source of identification when she goes to change the other documents. These include her driver’s license, passport, and school I.D. She also must contact her bank, credit card companies, insurance, and membership organizations, to inform them of her name change.
McCune, Jenny. (2006, May 8). “Here Comes the Bride’s Name Change.” Retrieved November 2, 2007, from
There are many laws and statutes surrounding marriage. The rules and regulations are made known through the internet, state constitutions, churches, etc. In Montana for example, there is a Family Law portion in the Constitution that examines most of the policies regarding marriage and how to ensure that it is legal. Most people do not know all of the requirements and laws about marriage. The best way to find out about these official standards is to research them and ask married people how they went through the process.
There are penalties for couples that fail to comply with the marriage requirements. If a couple fails to get a marriage license, then their wedding is a symbolic union but not a legal marriage in the government’s view. Also, individuals must be 18 or older, or have a parental consent to get married. Then they must meet separately with a state counselor to verify that the teenagers have a good relationship. If they do not have parental consent and continue with the wedding ceremony, then their marriage will not be a legal union. No one under the age of fifteen can be married under any circumstance in Montana.
Polygamy is banned in the U.S., which means no man or woman is allowed to have multiple spouses. The punishments for polygamists are taken serious in and they can be fined or go to prison for one to fifteen years, says James Brooke of the New York Times. Brooke, James. (1998, August 23). “Utah Struggles with a Revival of Polygamy.” New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2007,
Same-sex marriage is often a highly disputed topic in the United States. As of now, it is not common for states to view these as legal unions. These same sex couples can live together, but cannot have the benefits and securities of a legal marriage between a man and a woman.
These juridic controls may put couples through some frustrating processes, but once a couple is married and has completed all of the legal requirements necessary, the hard part is over. If a couple later on decides to get a divorce, however, or end their marriage there are a number of regulations they must follow, which would have to be examined in a different paper. This paper mainly has focused on the juridic controls that affect entering into marriage, and maintaining a life together, not divorce.
A couple that wants to be married uses “direct action” and “realises the end desired” when beginning the marital process (Ward 26). They actively go through the motions of getting a license and combining finances. However, this is a somewhat “indirect action” because the couple still has to rely on others to process their information and get the legal documents prepared.
Most sources, when asked how they felt about the juridic controls placed upon them surrounding marriage, said that it was not a big deal, or it was all worth it. They, for the most part. did not feel that they were frustrating to one’s every day life. One source did say that she remembered being extremely bothered by the fact that her church required her and her fiancé at the time to take a compatibility test. She thought it violated her personal boundaries to choose whom she spends her life with.
Some people avoid getting married altogether and decide to escape the juridic controls by simply living together. This is a common practice for same-sex couples, because this way they can live together but skip the controversial issue of being married.

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